Well, if you aren't from India, or if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, based on the book 'City of Joy' by Dominique Lapierre and starring Patrick Swayze and Om Puri, let me tell you that the City of Joy is our very own Kolkata, previously Calcutta, India.
My association with Kolkata has been a long affair. Born to baangali parents who are originally from Kolkata, I have been born and brought up in northern India, all my life. Not a surprise then, that till now, I was more of a Dilli-waali than a baangali, barring those annual Durga Puja days when the baangaali in me would suddenly wake up with a roar and thunder!
Its not that I haven't visited Kolkata. I have. But each time that I visited the city, I would be engulfed in a deluge of relatives and festivities, and almost all memories I have of this city from my earlier days are about moving from one relative's house to another, and almost always tables piled high with all kinds of mouth-watering delicacies, things that I did not value much as a kid, but do understand and long for now. I remember the numerous varieties of fish that were on display in various kinds of curries and pastes, fried crispy golden, or steamed with special marinades, or swimming in tangy spicy curries. There were always multiple kinds of vegetable dishes to choose from, not to mention varieties of daal and other delectable fares that I had no idea of. Plus the all-time favourite spread of aaloo bhaajaa, begun bhaajaa, beguni, potol bhaaja, karela bhaaja...uff...yum yum yum! And sweets !!! I have never been a fan of sweets, even as a kid, but I remember just HOW MANY different kinds of sweets would be arranged for me as if by magic. If I refused one, there would be another, if I didn't want that, there would be another.......there was no escaping!
For many years while I was growing up, I have seen Kolkata from the eyes of one who has always been an outsider, one who has never had a chance to feel the pulse of the city, to feel its soul and begin to fall in love with it.
Its only of late that I have started to understand this city the way one should. And as I begin this journey of exploring my roots, I know I am already falling in love....each passing moment !!!
- Debolina Raja Gupta